Posts Tagged '#whyvote'

Election focus: how can the Left re-engage the people?


Simon Winlow

In the second of our blog pieces focusing on the fast-approaching General Election, Simon Winlow, co-author of The rise of the right asks how it can be that, against a background of social, financial and environmental catastrophe, a political party dedicated to the neoliberalism seem set to secure a large majority. How can the Left get the people on side again?

There’s a terrible air of nihilism, cynicism and acceptance about the upcoming election. The Conservatives have made huge gains in the local council elections, and UKIP and Labour have lost quite badly. Of course, the general election could be very different. More people will vote, and the local issues that can sway council elections tend to be forgotten as the big issues of the day take precedence.

Theresa May has clearly timed the election to take advantage of disarray in the Labour Party, and in the hope carrying a large mandate into the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Pollsters are predicting a landslide for the Tory party, with UKIP disappearing as an electoral force and Labour continuing its slide toward oblivion.

Continue reading ‘Election focus: how can the Left re-engage the people?’

22 reasons to vote #imvotingbecause #GE2015 #whyvote

With hours to go until Polling Stations close and constituency level polling indicating that this is going to be a close run thing in many areas across the country, your vote can really make a difference. So if you haven’t voted yet here are 22 reasons why you might want to go and make your mark NOW!

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

WIN a signed copy of Peter Hain’s Back to the future of socialism

This time next week it will be all over. The nation will have voted to decide on the future of country for the next five years. Will we continue along the route of neoliberal, right-wing orthodoxy or is there a chance for an alternative, socialist future, for a fairer, more equal society?


Lord Kinnock, Ralph McTell and Peter Hain Photo credit: Kathryn King

Political insider Peter Hain’s book Back to the future of socialism tackles those questions, challenging austerity politics and calling for fundamental changes to the structure of our society.

For your chance to win a signed copy of Peter’s book simply answer this question:


Where did Anthony Crosland first serve as a Member for Parliament?

Email your answer to The first five winners drawn out of the bag midnight Wednesday 6th May will receive their very own signed copy of the book. Winners will be announced on election day, of course!

What other people have said already about Back to the future of socialism:

Back to the future of socialism [FC]“Indefatigably upbeat” Observer

Hain challenges us to think hard about the nature of our commitment to social democratic ideas.Progress

Its strength is its pace and breadth: Hain argues for taxes on unused development land to encourage housebuilding; condemns New Labour for turning into “Nervous Labour” and leaving it until 2010 to raise the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent; and he reasons that UK banks are “anti-business”; “obsessed with the short-term” and quick profits, when small and medium-sized firms need years of support.The Independent

The value of this book is that it sparks the sort of lively and nuanced debate that is too often drowned out in a public discussion so dominated by neoliberal values.” Tribune

Excellent, and very wide-ranging and knowledgeable – about the political history of the UK as well as about what is going on now. I recommend reading this book before voting, whatever you think. You may choose to disagree with various things. Or it might change your mind about whether Britain needs to “stay on track” or, if it does, is that much closer to being doomed as a society and as a state.” Amazon customer review

Well written appraisal of what’s wrong and what might be possible in UK government policies.” Amazon customer review

#whyvote #GE2015 #imvotingbecause

Can’t wait to win the quiz? You can also buy Back to the future of socialism at the special pre-election discount price of £9.99 (RRP £19.99) from Policy Press website or download the kindle edition for only £4.79 here. Discounts apply until midnight Friday 8th May.

UK “evidence free” government since 2010: What can we learn from the Dutch analysis of manifesto pledges?

In the May issue of Evidence and Policy Sources and resources section, Mark Monaghan interviews  Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) Wim Suyker about the Dutch approach to manifesto pledge analysis. In the run up to the UK General Election it seems pertinent to share this interview as we all ready ourselves to make decisions on who will govern us over the next five years.

EvP 2013 [FC]The 2010 general election signalled a turning point in the fortunes of evidence-based policy-making. From a high-point under the early iterations of the New Labour government, it has become apparent that the current Coalition government have been less preoccupied with highlighting the evidence-based credentials of their policy formulation.

Recent commentaries have gone as far as to highlight the ‘strange new world of evidence-free government’. It is, of course, debatable how ‘new’ this actually is. However, a paradox of the declining prominence of evidence within government is the increasing scrutiny of evidence use from outside in the form of a seemingly increasing desire on behalf of the public to scrutinise the work of politicians.

This is possibly (probably) a response to the Parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009, but within this climate, many new initiatives such as the FactCheck blog hosted by Channel 4 and the creation of an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) have come to fruition. According to its web pages, the OBR was created in 2010 to ‘provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s public finances’.

More recently in conjunction with the Alliance for Useful Evidence, The Conversation has launched its Manifesto Check service. Such initiatives may seem long overdue, yet they have been a common feature of the Dutch political system for many years, particularly in the work of the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB).

Established in 1945, the CPB is an independent organisation working ‘at the crossroads of economics and public policy’. It provides quarterly forecasts on the state of the Dutch economy. Importantly, it also offers all interested political Parties an analysis of the mainly economic effects of their manifesto pledges.

This analysis then helps shape political debate in the run up to General Elections. As we approach the 2015 General Election it is necessary to see what lessons the UK (and elsewhere) can learn from Dutch experience. In this interview Mark Monaghan discusses the CPB Manifesto Project with Wim Suyker of the CPB.

Monaghan: OK, so could you please tell our readers about the work of the CPB and your work within it?

Suyker: We are an institute employing around 100 people. We do various research projects, but we are also responsible for the official macro economic forecasts used for the budget. In that way we are comparable with the Office of Budget Responsibility in the UK. So that is our main activity. I could tell you about our history, but that is all the things that you can find on our website.

Monaghan: Could you tell us more about the Manifesto’s Project? How long has that been running and do all Parties participate?

Suyker: We have been running that since 1986. All Parties can decide if they want to join this exercise. It is on a voluntary basis in the sense that there is no law that says Parties should participate in this. It can, however, lead to awkward questions from the Press and other parties if Parties do not cooperate in the project. Last time we had ten Parties involved in this project. It was in 2012.

Monaghan: So there were ten Parties who submitted their Manifestos to yourselves, how many Parties in total contested the elections?

Suyker: There was only one Party in Parliament (Party for the Animals), that in principle didn’t participate in the project. It is not their cup of tea. There was another Party who in the election polls had 1 seat – this was the party of the Retired Persons (50PLUS) – they could have joined the project, but they decided not to do it. This was because they were very new and they didn’t have the staff etcetera.

Monaghan: OK, so it tends to be smaller, single issue Parties that don’t participate?

Suyker: Well, it depends. For instance, we have the Socialist Party. They are to the left of the Social Democratic or Labour Party and they are always very explicit in the way they decide whether to participate. ‘Is there something in it for us or not’? So the fact that basically now all Parties are participating now does not mean that it will be the same next time and it depends on the political situation. It is likely that the Parties who participated the last time will participate again in the coming projects, but it is not certain.

Monaghan: You mentioned earlier in passing the kind of, I suppose, penalty that Parties get if they fail to engage with the process, but that is not an official sanction?

Suyker: Oh no, it is more a judgement in the Press. For some parties – such as the Party for the Animals – it doesn’t hurt them by not doing it. It may hurt them if they are participating because their electorate may not like this kind of economic analysis.

Monaghan: And so that brings me on to the next question which is on what grounds are the Manifestos scrutinised? Is it just economic policy or does it cover social policies, health policies and so on…?

Suyker: Well, we have made a modification on this. In 2012 it was rather a broad exercise which we were doing with the Environmental Agency. We were also taking into account environmental impacts on policies. So we looked at fiscal and infrastructure policies. There was an analysis of energy and climate, innovation and education. You can get a flavour of it by looking through the English language summary. Having said that, there were a lot of issues tackled or topics tackled in the discussion before elections, but it is really the impact on economic growth in the short term, the impact on the Government budget in the medium term and the impact on employment in the long term that are the main issues discussed after the analysis is published.

Monaghan: So is the purpose of it to check facts?

Suyker: Perhaps I should clarify something. We don’t analyse the manifestos. The Parties make their election manifesto and on the basis of that they come to us with a list of measures that they want checking. So we don’t have to do an analysis of the Manifesto, it is for the Party to come with this list of measures, as concrete as possible, for us to look at. They may subsequently come with an additional list also.

Monaghan: So does that process take place publicly or privately?

Suyker: At that stage it is on a confidential basis. At the start of the process we make clear, by publishing on the website, what we are going to do. After that, it is down to Parties to decide whether to participate or not. We don’t comment in the Press which Party is or is not participating in the project. If a Party decides to stop its activity we will not comment on that in the Press. We will not say that a Party started the process and then quit. It is a thing for the Parties to say in the Press or not.

Monaghan: OK, and so the findings of the CPB are they published before or after the election?

Suyker: Before the election. Our aim is to publish that at least 3 weeks before the elections because we don’t want it too close to the election date. It is desirable that there is some discussion about the output we have, but it is also desirable that it is not too close to the election date.

Monaghan: Is that because you are concerned about the findings swaying public opinion in any way?

Suyker: Well in some ways for a good debate, you need some time to digest the complex issues. So I think time is desirable in a project like ours that the public can take through the Press the results, their can be some discussion about the results between the Parties and I think that is a fruitful input into the elections.

Monaghan: How do you decide the order in which the Manifestos are looked at?

Suyker: It is based on the outcome of the previous elections. The Party that has the biggest share of the electorate will be number 1 in the publication and they will be the first Party mentioned in tables and graphs etcetera.

Monaghan: So all the findings are published in one document? It is not a series of separate documents?

Suyker: No, we have one document. Last time that was 454 pages. Basically, that is it. Last times we gave a press conference at the time of publication. At the beginning of the process, we clarify the rules of the project. There is some additional material in which we do this and that is basically all the material involved.

Monaghan: So this 450 page document is then released to the Press

Suyker: Yes

Monaghan: And there is an executive summary…?

Suyker: Yes exactly. Then there are chapters. Every Party has its chapter and there is an introductory chapter which discusses the methodological issues involved.

Monaghan: Is there any sense from yourselves that the findings of the report can or do sway public opinion and is there any evidence for it?

Suyker: Well, you can see that the number of hits on our website increases a lot just after publication of the report and you can also see how it is mentioned a lot in the Press so it is clear that it is playing a role in the election process. What is also interesting is that after elections we have negotiations to form a Coalition and it is really obvious to say that the publication is an important input in this respect.

Monaghan: Is there anything specific to the discuss political system as to why this process works and would it translate to other places?

Suyker: What is peculiar or specific to the Dutch situation is that we always have a coalition government. The UK not also has its coalition government, but it is based on a senior/junior partner arrangement. Most of the time our Coalitions are different. Of course there is one Party who supply the Prime Minister but they are more equal partners. I think in this context the project fits very well.

It is the case that you also need to have authority and to be trusted by the public. I discussed this with French colleagues and for them it is hard to understand what we are doing. There needs to be consensus about how the economy works in broad terms. If you are considering a shock to expenditure there needs to be a consensus that an expansionary fiscal shock in the short-term will have a positive impact on GDP in the future. There should also be a consensus that changes in taxes and social security payments will change incentives to participate in the labour market and thus are influencing labour supply and employment in the long term that incentives on labour supply will have measurable outcomes.

It relies on a situation where there aren’t too many elements of the process that Parties don’t agree with. I think it is always for Parties to give and take. There may be elements that they like more than other elements, but they should accept the rules of the game.

Monaghan: So in your opinion, the project only works in the context that there is consensus across the political spectrum on what can be measured?

Suyker: Yes. Political Parties should accept that we are setting some rules for this project and they should be more or less happy with those rules. We always try to inform them of the rules some time before we start. We also discuss changes to the process, but there should be a consensus climate otherwise it would be very tough to do.

Monaghan: Have you ever discussed the process with counterparts in the United Kingdom?

Suyker: Well, Robert Chote [chair of the OBR] you mean?

Monaghan: Yes and others?

Suyker: We have given various presentations abroad. There are a lot of colleagues abroad who are interested in our experience and one of my colleagues this week was in Bratislava to explain the system. I’m pretty sure that if after the elections in the UK it is decided that they will have this kind of exercise then we will be in contact with the OBR.

Monaghan: So do you think this could be translated to the UK context, bearing in mind the level of consensus you suggested was necessary for the exercise to succeed?

Suyker: I think that I had more doubts about this three or four years ago, but if you have an OBR that is responsible for the economic forecasts then you have already made a big step in research-based policy making. So I think it could work well in the UK, but the Parties need to get the experience and you would have to show how there are trade offs in the process of decision-making. So I think it could work, yes.

Monaghan: OK, well I look forward to seeing whether it materialises

Suyker: Yes but from what I understand it is that after the elections Parties may change the guidance they are giving to the OBR or the Charter of Budget Responsibility of the OBR or something like that, but firstly we will have to see how the elections work out

Monaghan: Yes, would you basically see an expanded role for the OBR?

Suyker: I guess that is the most likely scenario. That is my guess, but I am not familiar enough with the situation to be sure, but the OBR is the most likely candidate to do this kind of project.

Monaghan: OK, that has been really interesting an helpful, so thank you so much for your time

Suyker: You’re welcome.

#GE2015 #whyvote #imvotingbecause

This article will be published in Open Access Sources & Resources section of the May issue of Evidence & Policy. For a free online trial to this journal, please sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The election debate: What you need to know about transport in the UK today

Authors and academics Jon Shaw and Iain Docherty give their view on the Coalition government’s performance in the area of transport. With some strong investment on the inter-city infrastructure, it’s not all bad news, but they suggest we should be asking our UK General Election candidates some tougher questions about their plans for developing international links and putting local transport control back in the hands of its passengers…

Iain Docherty

Iain Docherty

Jon Shaw

Jon Shaw

Has transport has been slowly but surely creeping up the political agenda at Westminster? When we first sat down to startwriting The Transport Debate in 2010, just after the last election, the prospects weren’t particularly encouraging.

As a policy area, transport had for a long time been largely forgotten. Spending large sums of money even to stop the quality gap between Britain and other European countries getting any more glaring had been anathema to successive ministers.

Over lunch one day, a Treasury official explained to us that if the UK could achieve about the same GDP as France without a TGV system, a comprehensive motorway system and a very rapidly expanding programme of urban tram re-openings, why bother spending the money?

Five years on, it all seems rather different. It’s not particularly fashionable to praise the Chancellor, especially in academic circles, but the view that we might well be better off if we do invest heavily in our transport networks seems to have gained traction in Whitehall since George Osborne took over.

Inter-urban infrastructure

High speed rail development UK Photo credit: Wikipedia

High speed rail development UK Photo credit: Wikipedia

Despite the worst economic downturn for generations, we are witnessing the most investment in our railways for, well, generations.

Crossrail and Thameslink are being taken through to completion; HS2 has been supported enthusiastically; hundreds of miles of electrification have been approved; thousands of new train carriages have started to arrive; the ‘Northern Hub’ is being built and a raft of major station improvements (e.g. Reading, Birmingham New Street) are progressing nicely. New tramlines are opening up in Nottingham and Greater Manchester.

Photo credit

Photo credit: Lewis Clarke

On the roads we have witnessed a revitalisation of reasonably large-scale road building and a medium-term funding commitment to the newly created Highways England. ‘Smart motorways’ are cropping up all over the place and a network of ‘Expressways’ – upgraded ‘A’ roads with controlled access and grade-separated junctions – has been announced.

Looking to the future we now have on the table more new roads, Crossrail 2, further railway electrification, a new western rail connection to Heathrow and an ambitious proposal including HS3 to link up the cities of the North of England. We of course will have to wait and see if these and other vaunted schemes ever see the light of day, but we’d be tempted to lay a tenner on at least some of them coming to fruition.


It is not entirely clear why transport investment has all of a sudden become fashionable again (we quite like the story about George Osborne’s dad coming back from Japan waxing lyrical about the quality of their railway system) but, whatever the reason, we should celebrate it while it lasts.

Although our transport system is functional, it is by any number of measures poor in relation to those of, say, Germany, France and the Netherlands. We are probably in a minority among our colleagues in embracing the DfT’s current road building proposals, but surely there is no excuse for perpetuating a poor quality inter-urban road network.

The trick will be to ‘lock in’ the benefits of better roads – less congestion, more reliable journey times, a reduction in pollution and so on – so that traffic is not induced onto improved sections. In any event, we should remember that the amount of rail investment dwarfs that being spent on new roads.

Does all of this mean that we’re going to be popping up in one of those election adverts on YouTube giving an academic thumbs up for Dave, George and the troops? Not exactly.

The truth is that neither Coalition party would like the message we’d have to give them. Even after all the hard work, after all the ‘difficult decisions’ that have enabled transport investment to take place while cuts are made elsewhere, Coalition ministers have only got the their approach at best one third right. That’s 33%. We’d fail a student for scoring less than 40%.

International links

As geographers, we can think of the problem as one of scale. Building lots of new inter-city infrastructure is certainly helping to make good past mistakes at the national level, but there’s been precious little happening to promote our international links.

Take of queue Heathrow Photo credit:

Take off queue Heathrow Photo credit: PhillipC

The only discernable policy making for aviation has been the decision to set up the Davies Commission. This is a shameful fudge.

The government should long ago have decided either to build new runways (Labour supported expansion at Heathrow) or to have a more ‘sustainable’ aviation policy by forcing the airports to work more efficiently (bigger planes, fewer short haul flights and so on). Perhaps better still, it could have decided to do both. In the context of previous governments’ ceaseless dithering, putting everything on hold for five more years is an abrogation of duty.

Local transport

And outside of London, at the local level there’s arguably an even bigger problem. Investment in our provincial urban transport networks has fared worse over the years than our inter-city ones. Assuming people’s final destination lies beyond the main railway stations, local transport in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and so on will become swamped with the hugely increasing number of passengers disgorging from new HS2 and other electric trains. And this will be on top of the rise in demand associated with population growth in each of these centres.

We might think Manchester’s and Nottingham’s trams are great – and indeed in the British context they are – but they are pretty small beer in relation to what others take for granted. Consider also that there is not one English city outside of London with an underground network, and most provincial centres except maybe Birmingham and Manchester have rather under-developed urban rail networks by the best European standards.

While our Second City has a patched-together Victorian urban rail system on a single light rail line, Frankfurt, its smaller twin, enjoys nine S-Bahn and several other urban lines (including a cross-city tunnel with trains every two minutes), 11 tramlines and fully nine underground lines.

English urban transport systems are mainly the preserve of deregulated bus services with their ever-changing routes and fares – and, in Liverpool, virtually no priority on the road network.

There are moves afoot to introduce smart ticketing across the large conurbations, and to regulate the bus network in Tyne and Wear and maybe Greater Manchester. Perhaps the large private bus companies are starting to realise that their effective control over local bus policy might be coming to an end. How novel that the passenger rather than the shareholder might be placed at the centre of urban transport operations.

Transformation of transport investment

Cyclists at Hyde Park corner roundabout in London Photo credit: wikipedia

Cyclists at Hyde Park corner roundabout in London Photo credit: Wikipedia

We have seen from across the Channel how it is possible to change the direction of transport policy. Like Britain, France used to be heavily reliant on the car but over the course of the last 40 years – no-one is suggesting change of this magnitude can come quickly – has completely transformed the focus of its transport investment, predominantly (but not exclusively) to benefit the public modes.

Transport for London is now into the second decade of a transformational investment strategy, but some of the seeds for what’s happening at the national level were sown only a couple of years before Gordon Brown was ejected from Number 10.

The Coalition has been delivering on a commitment to significantly improve inter-urban railways and roads, but is it realistic to expect the next government to continue this and get to grips with aviation and local transport? Given the need for heavy investment across the country’s public services in a climate of continued austerity, despite all the recent good progress we are not sure we’d lay a tenner on that just yet.

#GE2015 #whyvote #imvotingbecause

REPLACEMENT_The transport debate [FC]The transport debate by Jon Shaw and Ian Docherty is available for purchase from our website here (RRP £14.99). Don’t forget Policy Press newsletter subscribers get a 35% discount when ordering through our website. If you’re not a subscriber yet why not sign up here today and join our Policy Press community?

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

​​5 must reads before you vote

5 Pre election read_2s

Now in the midst of election campaigning, we’re bamboozled by spin and party politics, but what about the facts?

What about the very real stories and statistics that should provide the foundation of our decision about who to vote for?

We have selected five of our books that present these clearly.

Read one, some or all of them, read the policies, and place your vote.

In defence of welfare – Want to know more about developments in ‘welfare’ over the last five years of Coalition Government? This book brings you nearly 50 short, digestible pieces from a range of social policy academics, policy makers and journalists full of facts and analysis of welfare changes since 2010.

Austerity bites Mary O’Hara – If  ‘austerity’ is the thing you most want to know about then this book is for you. It chronicles the impact of austerity on people at the sharp end of the cuts, based on the author’s 12-month journey around the country in 2012 and 2013 and fully updated for the paperback edition.

Getting by – Lisa Mckenzie – Poor neighbourhoods are an area of public concern and media scorn but if you want to hear the story from the inside then you’ll want to read Getting by. Lisa Mckenzie lived on the notorious St Ann’s estate in Nottingham for more than 20 years. Her ‘insider’ status enables us to hear the stories of its residents, often wary of outsiders, to give a unique account of life in poor communities in contemporary Britain.

Good times, bad times – John Hills – Do you want hard data and facts about who benefits most from welfare spending in this country? Using extensive research and survey evidence, this book challenges the myth that the population divides into those who benefit from the welfare state and those who pay into it. It shows that all of us rely on the welfare state throughout our lifetimes, not just a small ‘welfare-dependent’ minority.

Sixteen for 16 – Salvatore Babones – And if you’re already thinking about the possible impact of next years’ US Presidential election then Sixteen for ’16 offers a new agenda for the 2016 US election crafted around sixteen core principles from securing jobs to saving the Earth. It is a manifesto which makes the argument for each of these positions, clearly, concisely, and supported by hard data.

There’s not much time left before the election, but these are available on Kindle or at all good bookshops…

#GE2015 #whyvote #imvotingbecause

Don’t forget Policy Press newsletter subscribers get a 35% discount when ordering through our website. If you’re not a subscriber yet why not sign up here today and join our Policy Press community?

Student confessions: why I didn’t vote in the last election…

As part of our #imvotingbecause campaign we asked University of Bristol second year Sociology student and Policy Press intern Katie Lucas, to share her insight into voting amongst the student population.

Katie argues that more positive and campaign driven media coverage as well as an increase in informal, social discussions about politics as key ways in which young people could easily be re-engaged in the process.

KatieI must confess I, Katie Lucas, did not vote in the last election. I am embarrassed to admit that I am one of those youths who didn’t muster the effort to walk the 5 minutes to my local polling station to vote.

But then I had the audacity to complain and despair after the EU parliament elections didn’t go the way I had expected. When discussing the EU election in 2014 with my friends, nearly all of them were disappointed the outcome and most of them also hadn’t actually participated in the vote. Why is this? I reflected upon my own feelings and did some further delving in order to try and understand why we weren’t participating.

Lack of knowledge

A major impact is a simple lack of knowledge. Young people don’t really know what the campaigns strive for and even more worryingly don’t really know the actual date of the election. As a student I can admit it can be easy to get wrapped up in your student bubble and the outside world can simply escape you.

It seems that the EU election was one these events that passed many by. Perhaps, it escaped some people’s attention because they really didn’t know who to vote for and therefore ignored any broadcasts and articles.

“Many of my peers had no idea what the different parties were standing for…”


Many of my peers who I spoke to had no idea what the different parties were standing for and many felt that researching and finding out seemed like a daunting, arduous task and therefore ignored the whole thing all together.

In combination with lack of knowledge, it seems that lots of the information that is presented is extremely negative. Newspapers and blogs slamming campaigns and politicians- mocking Ed Miliband, David Cameron etc.

When I review the information I do know about the parties’ campaigns it’s more about what they are doing wrong and why they are incompetent rather than anything positive highlighting a promising future or a policy that has worked.

It is all so discouraging, it often feels like we’re simply voting for the lesser of two evils. Is it more about keeping certain people OUT of power rather than wanting certain people in? It seems to have created a sense of apathy amongst those I spoke with – What’s the point in voting?

“We shouldn’t be aspiring to apathy over participation”

This is really not what young people should be feeling. We shouldn’t be aspiring to apathy over participation. Certainly Russell Brand’s cries of ‘there’s nothing worth voting for’ aren’t helping by validating those who aren’t.


Not everyone feels this way though. I do know those who do vote. Most were encouraged by discussions of politics at home or having participated in some sort of politics course at school or college. My friends who vote were appalled that I hadn’t and were all so willing to help me understand what certain parties argue and why it is important to vote.

After the EU elections with UKIP coming out on top I realised how important it is that I do vote, even if it is just to keep those who I really disagree with out of power. I urge young people to discuss the elections with friends or family as this can be a much less daunting way of finding out information.

Overall, I don’t know what the answer is but it clearly is a huge issue with a large proportion of my friends who don’t vote. Scotland’s substantial turn out when deciding whether to separate from England or not is something to aspire to if we want the political outcomes to express our actual opinions and thoughts.

I have now registered to vote in the general election in May as it has become clear to me how important it is and how ridiculous it is that I didn’t vote – it really is no effort at all for something that will actually impact me in the future. Each vote can make a difference and I hope to inspire my friends to follow suit.

#imvotingbecause #whyvote #GE2015

April Editorial: The election edition….

RM-14-webWherever you turn at the moment there’s an endless stream of chatter about the upcoming UK General Election. Somewhat unapologetically, there’s no escape on the Policy Press blog this month either. However, I am thrilled to say we’ve got a fantastic line up of content on the subject for you.

KatieWe’ve been taking part in the #BitetheBallot campaign for the past couple of months, encouraging people – especially young people – to register to vote as the first vital step in the process. Understanding how young people feel about voting (and why they don’t vote) is important and we’ve got a great, personal piece from our intern Katie Lucas for you.

What Katie’s post shows as much as anything is that if we really care about voter/youth voter engagement we need, at the very least, more positive media coverage and greater opportunities for more social and informal ways in which people can engage with politics as a subject. Perhaps now is the time to remove politics from the list of things you shouldn’t talk about over dinner….

We’ve also got some great posts from our authors laying out the key issues are in campaign topics such as education and transport. We want to use the blog to really help people crack open and understand the topics the politicians are talking about and these posts are a starting point for that. We’d love any feedback from you, as ever, on them and how useful you’ve found them.

Sixteen for 16 [FC]

Sixteen for ’16 – in the warm up for the US Presidential elections

Austerity bites [FC] border

Austerity Bites – out now in paperback

We’ve got some key titles publishing this month including Mary O’Hara’s Austerity Bites out in paperback and, as things are already warming up on the US Presidential election campaign trail, you may be interested to read Salvatore Babones’ Sixteen for ’16 which offers a new agenda for the 2016 US election crafted around sixteen core principles from securing jobs to saving the Earth.

We’re also running our own social media campaign ‘I’m voting because…’ in which staff, authors and, well anyone who would like to in fact, share their reasons for
voting via a photograph.

RuthYou can see the campaign developing by following any of these hashtags on our twitter account: #imvotingbecause #whyvote #GE2015. Do get involved if you feel you want to either by tweeting us your photo to @PolicyPress or emailing it to us here!

There’s lots going on (as ever) this month at Policy Press in addition to the election including the London book fair #lbf15 and a flurry of spring conferences – Onwards!


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There are fewer people registered to vote in 2015 than there were in 2010: is that to Labour’s advantage?

Policy Press authors and academics Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie have teamed up with David Rossiter to write a recent LSE General Election 2015 blog There are fewer people registered to vote in 2015 than there were in 2010. We were fascinated to read about the discrepancies in voter registration between this election and the last one, especially as we have been supporting the Bite the ballot campaign, encouraging people to register to vote. Here is their post reblogged in full…

AuthorsThe 2010 general election result was considerably biased in Labour’s favour: if they and Conservatives had won equal shares of the vote total, Labour could have obtained as many as 54 more seats than their Tory opponents. This bias partly reflected unequal electorates across the country’s constituencies.

Recently published data show that the number of registered electors nationally has since declined. But is Labour’s advantage still there? Ron Johnston, Charles Pattie and David Rossiter analyse those data and show that, unless the Conservatives win a lot of seats from Labour on 7 May, if the two parties are roughly equal in their number of votes Labour could again benefit from the inherent biases in the electoral system, perhaps by as many as 30 seats.

All UK general election results since the 1970s have been biased, favouring Labour over the Conservatives – bias being defined as the difference in the number of seats each would have gained if they had equal shares of the votes cast. If that had occurred in 2010 – with votes distributed across Britain’s constituencies in the same proportions as the votes actually cast – Labour would have obtained 54 more seats than the Conservatives.

Pro-Labour bias

Several factors create this pro-Labour bias; the most consistent have been differences between constituencies won by the two parties in their average electorates and turnout rates. Small constituencies can be won by fewer votes than large ones; so can those with low turnouts compared to those with high. The mean electorate in Conservative-won seats was 72,304 in 2010, but 68,672 in those won by Labour; average turnout in those two groups of seats was 68.2 and 61.2% respectively. The former difference was worth 18 seats to Labour in the total bias of 54; the latter was worth 31 seats.

The Conservatives tried to remove the impact of differences in average electorates: the 2011 Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act required all constituencies to have electorates within 5% of the national average by the time of the 2015 general election, and the Boundary Commissions’ revised recommendations for new seats applying this rule would have removed any pro-Labour bias. But the redistribution was aborted, the Liberal Democrats voting with Labour and against their coalition partners to delay the redistribution until 2016, in retaliation for the lack of progress on House of Lords reform.

But has that difference in mean electorates been reduced, if not eliminated, by changes since 2010 in the distribution of the electorate across Britain’s 650 constituencies? Labour’s advantage over the Conservatives was a consequence of:

  • Smaller constituencies on average in Scotland and Wales (65,234 and 58,627 electors respectively) – where Labour won 67 seats and the Conservatives only 9 – compared to England (average 71,918), where the Conservatives won 297 seats to Labour’s 191;
  • A decline since the constituency boundaries were defined – using data for 2000 in England and Wales, and 2004 in Scotland – in the average electorate in seats won by Labour (most of which are in urban areas) compared to those won by the Conservatives.

In general, Labour won the smaller constituencies and those with declining electorates: they needed fewer votes to win there than did the Conservatives in the larger constituencies and those with expanding electorates.

As the 2015 election is to be fought in the same constituencies as 2010, these differences presumably remain in place – and might even be exaggerated, thereby enhancing Labour’s advantage – which could be crucial in determining the largest party in a close-run election. But has there been any clear pattern of change over the five years?

The Office of National Statistics recently published the number of registered electors in each constituency in December 2014 (except that the Scottish data will not be available until May 2015). These will not be the final figures at the 2015 election, because enrolment is open until mid-April, but comparing them with those for December 2009 (before the 2010 election) provides insights on trends since then. (For Scotland, we have had to use the 2013 data.)

“…there are as many as 1 million new ‘missing voters’, joining the several million who were not registered before 2010”

Across Britain, despite overall population growth in recent years, the average constituency electorate declined by 228 individuals – in part because a large number of people have moved home but not registered at their new address (especially young people who were registered as students but have since graduated and moved away): others qualify to vote but have not registered (again, many of these are probably young people). The Electoral Commission estimates that because of these patterns there are as many as 1 million new ‘missing voters’, joining the several million who were not registered before 2010.

Electorate 2009The first graph shows a very strong correlation between each constituency’s electorate in 2009 and 2014 – the overall pattern of constituency sizes has not changed – but with one very clear variation: average electorates declined in both England and Wales (by 558 and 888 respectively) but increased by 2,669 electors in Scotland (no doubt reflecting Scots’ keenness to vote in the 2014 Independence Referendum).

There were considerable variations around these averages, however: 286 constituencies experienced an increase, 158 of them by more than 1,000 electors; 346 experienced a decline – 213 of them by more than 1,000 electors and 96 by more than 2,500. Have the declines been concentrated in Labour-held seats, thus increasing their advantage over the Conservatives? Or has the recent population growth in many UK cities diluted the pro-Labour bias?

Electorate Average constiuencyThe answers – as illustrated in the second diagram – are yes, but only slightly to the first question, and thus no to the second. Only constituencies won by the SNP in 2010 have, on average, increased in size. The mean electorate in Conservative-held seats declined by 224 between 2009 and 2014, compared to 1,179 in Labour-held seats (despite the growth in Scotland where it holds 41 seats).

The difference between the two parties’ mean electorates was 4,016 in 2009; in 2010 it was 4,101. Thus if the Conservatives and Labour each won the same seats in 2015 as 2010, Labour could anticipate a favourable bias of some 18-20 seats if the parties have near-equal vote shares because of this factor alone.

An unlikely outcome

That is an unlikely outcome, of course. Labour’s initial strategy for 2015 targeted 106 seats. If it won them all, and all other seats stayed with their 2010 winner, the average Labour constituency in 2014 would have 68,098 electors and the average Conservative constituency 72,810 – the gap would be 4,712 electors, and the pro-Labour bias probably larger than five years ago. (The 106 seats that Labour would win – 89 of them from the Conservatives, 12 from the Liberal Democrats, 4 from Nationalist parties and one from the Greens – had an average electorate in December 2014 of 68,682.)

On the other hand, the 40 seats that the Conservatives have targeted as potential gains – 32 from Labour and 8 from the Liberal Democrats – averaged electorates of 67,475 in 2014. If all were won, the average electorate in Labour-won seats would be 68,112, whereas in Conservative-won seats it would be 71,442, a slightly smaller gap between the two of only 3,330: there would still be a pro-Labour bias, but reduced because some smaller constituencies had crossed into the Tory camp.

The marginal seats on average have smaller electorates than those that are relatively safe for the two parties, therefore. The more of them that the Conservatives win, the smaller the gap between each party’s mean electorate and the smaller the likely pro-Labour bias in the outcome.

One other scenario worth exploration concerns Scotland, where the average electorate increased after 2009. In 2010 Labour won 41 seats there, the Liberal Democrats 11, the SNP 6 and the Conservatives 1. Some commentators suggest that the SNP might win most of the Scottish seats. If, to take the extreme case, the SNP won all 59, the average electorate in England and Wales would be 67,381 for Labour and 71,795 for the Conservatives. Labour would still have an advantage over the Conservatives in the translation of votes into seats should the two parties get approximately the same number of votes overall.

How about turnout variations? The average in 2010 was 61.2 and 68.2% in Labour- and Conservative-held seats respectively. In Labour’s 106 target seats it was 66.3 whereas in the Conservatives’ it was 64.9; if Labour won all of its targets, turnout in 2015 – if the 2010 pattern is replicated – where it won would average 62.7% whereas in the remaining seats in Conservative hands it would be 68.8%. If the Conservatives won all of their targets, turnout in all of its seats would average 67.8%, whereas in those retained by Labour it would be 60.9.

Once again, the conclusion is clear – Labour would be advantaged by the same pattern of turnout differentials across the constituencies in 2015 as in 2010 (even if the SNP won all of Scotland’s seats, when the average turnout would be 60.9% and 68.2% in Labour- and Conservative-held seats respectively in England and Wales).

“Turnout differences gave Labour a further – and more substantial – advantage over its main rival in 2010…”

Labour had a considerable advantage over the Conservatives in 2010 – as at previous elections – because its seats had fewer electors on average. (Which is not to deny that some Labour-held seats have large electorates: two of the biggest in 2014 were Manchester Central and Ilford South.) That situation will not change markedly in 2015, unless the Conservatives win a large number of Labour-held marginals. Turnout differences gave Labour a further – and more substantial – advantage over its main rival in 2010, and that too is unlikely to change markedly in 2015.

In conclusion if, as all the opinion polls suggest, the two parties are close in their vote shares on 7 May, Labour could get as many as 30 more seats than the Conservatives (with the size of that gap dependent on the outcome in Scotland). This could be sufficient to make Labour the largest party, giving Ed Miliband the first attempt to form a government – even if Labour came only second in the vote tally. Such an outcome is almost certain because of the lower turnout in Labour seats. The Conservatives’ failure to get the differences in constituency size changed, because the creation of new constituencies was aborted in 2013, makes Labour’s advantage even more certain.

About the authors

Policy Press CoverYou can read more on this subject by Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie in their book Money and electoral politics  – available to buy from the Policy Press website here. Don’t forget newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount on all our titles purchased through our website. Not a subscriber? Don’t feel left out, sign up here!

Ron Johnston is Professor of Geography at the University of Bristol. Charles Pattie is Professor of Geography at the University of Sheffield, specialising in electoral geography. David Rossiter has worked in a research capacity at the Universities of Sheffield, Oxford, Bristol, Leeds and Essex. He has been involved in the redistricting process both as academic observer (for example The Boundary Commissions, MUP, 1999) and as advisor to the Liberal Democrats at the time of the Fourth Periodic Review.

This blog was originally posted on the LSE blog here. #bitetheballot #imvotingbecause #whyvote

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